Monday, February 06, 2017

The Ever-Changing View: What I've Been Playing

I have this new thing--I have a lot of new things--which is that I play the piano, and often sing, every day. I tried working on classical pieces I already knew, like Bach preludes or Mendelssohn Songs Without Words; I tried learning new classical pieces, like Debussy's Arabesque No. 1; but I just wasn't getting anywhere. It seems this isn't a self-improvement project so much as a meditative exercise, or even just plain play. So now I wander into the room with the piano after my yoga class and my Pavlovian post-yoga cold brew (or earlier if the school bus or laziness causes me to miss yoga class) and I play whatever strikes my fancy, based on what I dreamed about, or a thing I heard that reminded me of a thing that reminded me of another thing.

Today, as every so often since I first bought it seven years ago, I was playing Carole King's "Tapestry" from the album of the same name. I remember my father throwing "Tapestry" idly on the turntable about ten years after the album came out, commenting that it was as good as a Hits of the 60s compilation because of "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?" "You've Got A Friend," and "Natural Woman." I liked those, but I also loved "So Far Away," "Home Again" (which I used as an audition piece in front of a bewildered production team for a summer "Pirates of Penzance"), and especially the title song.

I listened to that album so many times, for so many hours, on the rust-colored corduroy couch in my parents' dimly-lit living room. Sometimes I softly crooned to myself, sometimes I pored over the album cover, most times I just listened, and then from time to time I jumped up and went into the yellow shag-carpeted study to turn the record over and drop the needle again. I miss self-returning arms; our current turntable doesn't have one. Sometimes I worry that my kids didn't get this kind of utterly wasted, lazy yet intense time with anything. Where was the rest of my family? (I do dimly recall a voice telling me to turn a light on) Wasn't there something I should have been doing? (I know, know, going outside and getting some fresh air). Anyway, when I looked at that album cover, I saw something I recognized, and more that I wanted.

It still looks very familiar, apart from the fact that my hair will never have body or wave: the bare feet, the jeans, the any old sweater, the somewhat boho decor, the tabby cat, check check check check check. Okay, if I were working on a tapestry it would be in a bag under a table in the living room for months, not in my hands, BUT I'm not posing for an album cover.

I had a vague fantasy, a very vague fantasy, as I listened to "Tapestry" that I would one day have a cabaret act in which I sang the album in its entirety, and I would wear (memory reels, even confined to the interior realm) a dress with an actual tapestry panel on its blousey front. What a very early-80s dress that would have been. My act has not come to pass. I am, though, weaving my tapestry, singing my song, with writing; and I'm getting glimpses of those things that intrigued me before seventh grade obliterated everyone's real self for a while.

One last note, about notes: I know every one on this album, played by every instrument. Pop sheet music is often heartbreaking, partly because pop isn't always piano-based, but also because transcribers don't seem to care about helping you recreate album sound. The Hal Leonard "Tapestry" book sounds just like the album. It is a joy, and if you use this affiliate link to buy it, you won't be sorry. Pick up the album, too.

Friday, February 03, 2017

♫ How will you make it on your own... ♫

Sorry, I've become a little obsessed with the Mary Tyler Moore show in the past week. I think I imprinted on Mary Richards in my extreme youth--my parents never missed the show but I only got to see it as a rare after-bedtime treat--and then she was buried in my subconscious. So when I pictured myself returning to the blog after basically three years, I pictured Mary driving into Minneapolis in the first-season credits. Totally normal.

Greetings, Dear Readers! (That's how I originally intended to begin this post). I'm back where I may possibly belong. The bright lights (and more than a dozen eyeballs) of Facebook lured me away. But Facebook, like Hollywood or Broadway or whatever already-labored metaphor we're using here, isn't all that it's cracked up to be. Especially lately, right?

So I really, really, am going to post every weekday at Watering Place. I used to tell my high school diary the same thing: "A whole bunch of stuff happened that I'm not going to write down, but from now on I will write here every day, Dear Diary!" But I'm grown up now, right? I often exercise, and rarely eat an entire bag of Reese's Peanut Butter Cup Miniatures. This week. So I'll definitely keep to the following schedule:

Mondays I'll write about music. Not local, contemporary music--that's what CoolDad is for--but whatever I've been noodling around with on the piano. Sometimes the Great American Songbook, sometimes 70s pop, very sometimes classical. Like Mark Steyn's Song of the Week except Mark Steyn knows more about music and is brilliant. Uh, so not like that. Should be a great start!

Tuesdays I'll aggregate links--product recs, interesting stories, the stuff blogs were originally made for. Remember?

Wednesdays I'm reviving the poetry podcast. Five minutes of reading and commentary to bring a little poetry into your life.

Thursdays I'll share a memory. My high school physics teacher used to offer this--"When-I-Was-A-Boy Stories"--and we always, always turned it down. Boy, do I have a great marketing sensibility or what?

Fridays I'm going to try recapping television. Right now my plan is "Riverdale," which is looking like a great new guilty pleasure. I can't resist a good teen soap. As I said above, I'm very grown up.

It's great to be back. *throws hat in the air*

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Best-Laid Plans

Ha! Well, that last thing didn't happen. I got about as far in _Ulysses_ as I got into _Swann's Way_. Perhaps next spring. I'm about to enter the magical period in a mother's life known as "youngest child goes to full-day kindergarten." My friend LSH (who's in the same boat) asked me about my plans and I said "I'm going to become a perfect physical specimen and write the Great American Novel." She said her goals are remarkably similar.

I've just about decided that September will be boot camp. Not the terrible exercise class that's actually called "Boot Camp." I've watched that one at the Y while I run around the indoor track, and those people are NOT having a good time. I like good times. So I'll be cutting out sugar, running, and doing yoga at least twice a week. That's my boot camp.

Before that, I have an exciting August planned with lots of high-, middle- and low-brow cultural activities, including a Brady Bunch Convention. I've written on the blog before--twice--about my love for the Bunch. Not long after I learned that there was such a thing as a Brady Bunch Convention, in easy driving distance, I found out that I have an opportunity to attend for free. I can't pass it up. I am sad that Maureen McCormick won't be there: I would have liked to be the one millionth woman of a certain age to tell her that I wanted to be just like her (well, like Marcia) when I was a little girl. But Barry Williams is going to be there, and rumor has it he will teach the "Sunshine Day" choreography.

Monday, March 17, 2014

I'll be over there ---->

Just a note to my faithful readers: for the next three months I'll be posting, ideally every day, at

If you've always wanted to be a blogger, you can post there too! All you have to do is try to read Ulysses by June 16. Drop me a line and I'll sign you onto the crew.

Friday, November 29, 2013

A Late Thanksgiving Post

I've been thinking about my grandparents a lot, and on Facebook when that "x things people don't know about you" thing went around, I told things about my grandparents instead. Now I'm taking the show to the blog, because I was just reading Simcha Fisher's Thanksgiving post and it reminded me of my grandfather's pumpkin pie story.

One evening, my grandparents were at another couple's house playing cards. Incidentally, this seems like a type of socializing that is worth reviving--two couples play cards and afterward have dessert: no company dinner to worry about (don't get me wrong, I love making company dinner, but not everyone does); no money to spend on movie tickets or bar tabs.

Anyway, as they played some impulse prompted my grandfather to hold forth at some length about how much he hated pumpkin pie. He loved pie in general. The moment he got off the proverbial boat, he went into a diner and ordered a slice of apple pie and a glass of milk. Pumpkin pie, though, I guess they don't have in Ireland. He felt about it the way I feel about spaghetti squash or mizuna: just didn't understand why anyone had ever decided it was food. He went on, as I say, at some length about the disgusting soapy taste, mushy texture and general horribleness of pumpkin pie, and didn't notice the growing quietness and discomfort of his hosts. For when the card game was over and refreshments were served, that evening's dessert was--you guessed it--pumpkin pie!

But that's not the end of the story. Quite a bit later, my grandparents were at a card-playing evening at a different couple's house, and it occurred to my grandfather to tell the funny story of his pumpkin pie faux pas. In the telling, for dramatic effect, he probably managed to describe his repulsion even more elaborately. That evening's planned treat was also, of course, pumpkin pie.

Thursday, October 17, 2013


Both me and the poem. It's the first one I've written in seven years, and the first one that came to me unbidden in something like 20. I'm only posting it because CoolDad asked. And because, well, later on I may wish I had.


A drift of fallen leaves, tire-stirred, wings toward the windshield.
I feel the swift conviction that really, there is no glass:
This time, protection will not protect.
I duck, just slightly.

Of course the brown flock flutters crisply around the car
And I’m left somewhat sorry after all,
Wishing I could have tried to catch one in my hand.